Sony’s A7 series has been around for over four years and, since the release of the original A7 and A7R at the start of 2014, the series has improved and expanded to help make Sony a major force in the market. It could be argued that it’s this camera series more than any other that has helped promote mirrorless as such strong alternatives to DSLRs.
The current Sony A7 series includes a number of variants: along with the A7 II, which this model supersedes, there is the (£2,000) 36.4-megapixel A7R II and the (£2,240) 12.2-megapixel A7S II, offering options for those wanting the maximum resolution or those needing ultra-high sensitivity.
The A7 III is more affordably priced than both these models, yet offers a range of features that will prove more appealing to users capturing a general range of subjects.
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Sony Alpha 7 III review: Design and layout
The Alpha 7 III has a similar appearance to other A7 series cameras and, while slightly heavier than the previous model, is still compact considering it houses a full-frame sensor.
Magnesium alloy is used in its top cover, front cover and internal frame, seals throughout the body minimises the risk of entry of dust and moisture, while a slightly larger handgrip improves overall handling.
Controls are neatly laid out, with notable additions to the previous version being an AF-On button and joystick toggle. Dials on the top-plate handle exposure modes and exposure compensation, while input dials on the front and rear ensure settings can be quickly changed.
Speed of operation is further improved by the rear four-way control with integral wheel. One thing you’ll notice is the high number of custom function buttons (see panel for details) that really helps set up the camera to your way of shooting. So, even if you’re not used to Sony Alpha models, it shouldn’t take you too long to find your way around the A7 III and have it set up to your way of working.
The electronic finder has the same 2.3-million resolution as the previous model, with a slight increase in magnification (from 0.71x to 0.78x). It is bright and sharp and while there’s little to complain about, it’s a shame it isn’t the 3.68-million finder found on the Alpha 7R III and A9.
The 3in LCD monitor has a decent if not spectacular 921,600-dot resolution screen and sits on a platform that can be tilted up and down, but not sideways. A touchscreen allows AF points to be set using your finger, but doesn’t extend to navigating menus or activating settings.
The Alpha 7 III looks very much like its predecessor, but while the exterior doesn’t show so many changes, inside it has been extensively updated to offer features designed to meet the needs of enthusiasts and professionals alike.
Sony Alpha 7 III review: Features and specifications
The 24.2-megapixel resolution is the same as the previous camera, but the image sensor has been updated and improved with back-illumination, which along with the BIONZ X processor, provides an improved sensitivity range (it can reach ISO 204800), better noise performance and a claimed increased dynamic range of around 15 stops (with 14-bit Raw). While sensors without low-pass filters are now the norm, the A7 III actually uses one, although image sharpness doesn’t suffer as a result of this.
Videographers will be pleased with the range of menu options available on the A7 III, with headphone and microphone sockets hidden beneath a cover. When shooting at 24p, the full width of the sensor is used, which means over twice the amount of data required for 4K is captured, before being oversampled, so video quality is assured.
The five-axis body-integral stabilisation found on the A7 II has been tweaked to give a claimed five stops of benefit – we found it gave around 3.5 to 4.5 stops of stabilisation.
One of the strongest areas of the camera is its autofocus system, which is very similar to that found on the flagship A9. A staggering 693 phase-detection AF points cover the majority of the image frame, with 425 contrast AF points employed too.
There is an extensive range of AF area modes available, including wide, zone and centre, giving plenty of options for every type of photographer. For those shooting portraits, the addition of Eye AF, which gives reliable tracking of a subject’s eye (Eye AF was used for the image above), is worth checking out.
Sports and wildlife photographers will be glad to see an AF-On button on the rear and will be very impressed with the performance of the A7 III’s continuous AF, which is accurate, even with subjects moving at speed or erratically.
A maximum burst speed of ten frames-per-second will be welcome too, as will the updated buffer, which can handle sequences of up to 177 JPEGs. Two SD card slots ensure you’ve plenty of memory capacity too.
Another major upgrade is the battery life – Sony claims a single charge is good for up to 600 or so shots (with viewfinder) and our tests confirmed well over 500 was possible.
A full set of exposure modes are available, with scene modes selected by placing the mode dial to SCN and using the rear controls and LCD to select one. Not that I expect many users of this camera to need them.
The camera has Wi-Fi and NFC and can be used with the PlayMemories app for remote control and image sharing, while location info can be shared via Bluetooth.
Sony Alpha 7 III review: Performance
Although I only had two weeks or so with the camera, I have no doubt of how good a performer it is. The metering system is excellent, as is the AF, while image quality leaves little wanting.
Colours are well reproduced, contrast is good, while tonal range is excellent. Noise is very well controlled, with images at ISO 3200 and even ISO 6400 being more than usable.
Bar the odd niggle, chiefly the limited touchscreen facility and lack of a top-plate info LCD, I’ve nothing to complain about.
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Sony Alpha 7 III review: Verdict
Regardless of whether you shoot landscapes, wildlife, travel, sports or portraits, the Sony Alpha 7 III has plenty to offer.
Its small size and well-rounded set of features, along with its excellent image quality, makes it a very appealing proposition. It’s as good a mirrorless model as you could expect to find under £2,000 and gives rival DSLRs their strongest competition yet.
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